With a little less than 3 months before MAGFest, I’ve been putting serious work of late into my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles skills. I’ve been practicing the other games I’ll be playing at MAGFest, too, of course, but this one in particular is a game I volunteered to speedrun without a lot of experience on it. It also has a reputation for being Battletoads-level hard…a reputation which is totally deserved in my opinion.
You can get an idea of the basic gameplay of the game from the linked video above, but in brief, you have two views–bird’s eye, and side-scrolling, plus a random swimming level (AKA “That (*&*&(^&% Dam” to most who played the game in their youth). Most of the game, especially later on, takes place in the side-scrolling views.
One of the flaws in the game is this: Your four turtles each have their own life meter, and losing a turtle sends you back to the beginning of whatever side-scrolling area you were in at the time of the death, with any surviving turtles retaining whatever health they had at the time (Which ups the challenge considerably). Losing all four Turtles is a Game Over, and you have two continues.
What’s so bad about this? Well, besides the limited continues, each Turtle has their signature weapon. The theory, I think, was that each Turtle would have their strengths and weaknesses and require use in various situations. In practice, though, the strengths and weaknesses balance out to “Keep Donatello alive at any cost and use him 90% of the time or more, switch to Leonardo in emergencies, and use Raphael and Michaelangelo [sic] exclusively in the swimming level”. Losing Donny is tantamount to losing that credit–especially in the last level, you’re not getting anywhere without him. And with only three credits, that’s not a good thing at all. In fact, Donatello’s sheer power in this game is probably what made him my favorite Ninja Turtle as I got more into the franchise (Though the fact that he was the brainy one of the group didn’t hurt either).
And of course, there are the various “What the *^%%*&^ how did Konami ever expect anyone to beat this?!” sections of the game. The first, and most well-known, is the swimming section, which involves you dealing with electrical currents and two types of killer seaweed to disarm 8 bombs before they go off (And give an instant Game Over). Get through that and you’re faced with a massive overworld section in Area 3, a mazelike area that was always where I got hung up in the game as a youth. But the hardest part of the game is, without a doubt, the final section of the final level. Area 6 introduces soldiers with rocket packs and, as Dr. Evil would say, “Frickin’ laser beams!”, and the last section of the level throws them at you in huge numbers and cramped quarters. They’re without a doubt the toughest non-boss enemy in the game, taking at least three hits (Even with Don, who can generally wipe everything else in the game out with one or at most two hits), and only requiring 4 or 5 to knock a Turtle from full health down to nothing. The one saving grace about them is that they’re actually pretty passive for the most part, and will usually just fly over your head if you duck down (Exception: When the hallway narrows for the first time, there’s a non-zero chance that one of a pair will fly low and crash into you even if you’re ducking. If that happens, you’re in trouble), at which point you can run like heck to try and scroll them off the screen before they give chase. So a lot of my time has been spent trying to work out how best to get through that final gauntlet. Surprisingly, actually engaging a single pair of the laser soldiers in combat (The third pair when the hallway narrows for the first time, just before it narrows again) seems to have the highest success rate; trying to run from that particular pair tends to lead to me not being able to scroll it off-screen quickly enough, which gets me surrounded in a really narrow hallway, at which point I may as well just kill off all four Turtles and continue.
But I’m getting better at it.